In the world and diet culture that surrounds us every day, it has become increasingly difficult to decipher what ‘healthy’ foods should be purchased. On top of this, budgeting and saving money has become increasingly more difficult when trying to buy some of these luxury health foods, creating nothing but stress and panic when entering the grocery store.
Whether you are trying to feed a large number of people or just trying to save, budgeting and saving money is so important, and does not stop when you are trying to eat a more balanced and healthy diet. I have come up with some budget-friendly freezer and pantry staples that I always have in my pantry to save me on some of my runs to the grocery store, and will always ensure there are balanced nutritious options available to me.
Make these pantry staples part of your shopping routine
- Oats and Brown Rice: Oats and Brown rice are complex carbohydrates packed with essential nutrients and dietary fiber. These are an inexpensive staple to always have around, as they can really bulk up a meal with a nutritiously dense food while making it more satisfying. For Oats, I always add an ample amount of chia seeds and flax seeds to add some healthy omega 3 fats and to make them a little more filling and top them off with some peanut or almond butter. Oats and Brown Rice are easily accessible in any grocery store you come across and are always made cheaper when not precooked or prepackaged. If your store has a bulk section, this is a great place to get oats and brown rice in a large quantity as you end up saving money. These will last in your pantry for a very long time, so I always find it more cost-effective to buy them in large quantities in the bulk section, than always have them accessible to me.
- Canned Vegetables/Frozen Vegetables: I know sometimes people are wary of canned or frozen vegetables, as they fear they don’t hold the same nutritional content as fresh vegetables. However, the canning and freezing process actually preserves many of the nutrients that are in these vegetables, so they hold the same if not more nutritional density as fresh vegetables while staying for a much longer time. Buying canned or frozen vegetables is a great and easy way to ensure you are adding a good vegetable to every meal due to their convenience and flavor. I will usually sauté or bake these vegetables, then season them to match whatever protein I am cooking. This adds a fun spin onto the vegetables and once they are done cooking, they always taste fresh to me. I also recommend looking to see if you can find any canned, pickled vegetables. They are extremely tasty and can add some necessary probiotics to your diet.
- Beans/Lentils: Canned beans and lentils are an extremely versatile, staple food that I find to be essential in my budget-friendly pantry. Canned beans are a great source of protein, iron, and micronutrients that can be incorporated into almost every dish. I love to top my salads with garbanzo or great northern beans, and love to make a fun, inexpensive Mexican dish full of black and refried beans. These can also be incorporated into many baking projects to add a great source of fiber and protein to your pastries. These can be bought canned, and also inexpensively in bulk when they are dried.
- Sweet Potatoes: An essential I always have in my pantry is sweet potatoes. Packed full of fiber, vitamin A, and antioxidants, they are a great nutritious food that can be incorporated into every meal to make the meal more satiating and satisfying while adding loads of nutrition to your diet. They can be prepared in a savory or sweet way to match any form of dish you may be trying to create, and can also be manipulated to make great plant burgers, sweet potato mash, and a wide variety of other things. While they can be bought to be baked in the oven in their simple form, I will often buy the microwavable ones found at some grocery stores. Often found in plastic wrap, they are very quick to cook in under ten minutes and are an easy way to incorporate these nutrients without requiring a stove. I will often top one with some nut butter and some hemp hearts to add a good fat and protein. It makes for an extremely balanced and delicious meal in under ten minutes.
- Nut butters: Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, or other nut butters are a great staple to add to any pantry. Full of healthy fats and protein, they are an easy way to bulk up any meal or snack to make it more filling and nutrient-dense. Many times, I find that ordering a large or multi-pack from online retailers can be an inexpensive way to buy it in bulk in a shelf-stable way. Costco and other retailers like this also have great deals on buying bulk shelf-stable nut butters. Make sure you avoid ones that have many added sugars to them and try to find the nut butters simply containing nuts or nuts and salt. These can be used for a wide variety of meals and snacks, and they are a staple in my pantry for a quick and satisfying snack.
Preparation is key to forming healthy habits
While I could go on about a million different products that are great pantry staples, I will leave you with these few ones to get a head start on creating a nutrient-dense, budget-friendly pantry. Whether in school working on a budget, or trying to feed a large family in bulk, I hope these and ideas help you to shop without fear or anxiety the next time you go to the store. All of these staples are easy, cheap ways to incorporate essential nutrients into your diet in a cost-effective way if you do not have access to more expensive, non-shelf stable products. If you want more meal plan help, that is one of my services and my favorite thing to help busy people incorporate into their lives. Learn more here.